Bolivia borders Peru, Brazil, Paraguay and Chile in western South America. The Andes Mountains run through western Bolivia, with the high plains (Altiplano) covering the western border. Lake Titicaca, the second largest lake in South America, crosses over the border of Peru into Bolivia. There are a variety of habitats in Bolivia, including lowlands, grasslands, mountains and the rainforest along the Amazon River. The fauna in the country is rich and varied, with colorful macaws, parrots and parakeets, as well as toucans and flamingos. Read on to find out all about the national bird of Bolivia.
What is the National Bird of Bolivia?
The national bird of Bolivia is the Andean Condor. The Andean Condor is one of the largest birds that can fly on the planet. They can be 4.25 feet long and have a wingspan of up to 10.5 feet. For reference, if you stretch your arms out (go ahead and do it), your arm span is about the same as your height, so if you are 5 feet tall, you have an arm span of about 5 feet. Now imagine doubling that to reach the wingspan of the Andean Condor. It is amazing!
What is an Andean Condor?
Andean condors are vultures considered New World vultures. They are scavengers that search for dead animals for dinner. Andean Condors certainly do not have the “Aw cute!” factor. They are unique-looking birds with bald heads and large fleshy flaps on top of their beaks called caruncles (the males). They have a white fluffy collar around their neck and black bodies with white markings on their wings. The males can get to 33 pounds, and the females closer to 24 pounds.
How do Andean Condors Fly?
Andean condors coast on warm air currents and can float from thermal to thermal to continue flying without flapping their wings for extended periods. They live in the Andes Mountains and use their high vantage point to locate food below. Their excellent eyesight helps them locate their next meal.
Why is the Andean Condor the National Bird of Bolivia?
The Andean Condor symbolizes strength and nobility. They live in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Columbia and Bolivia and have a history of being honored by South American cultures like the Incas.
Is the Andean Condor on the Bolivian Flag?
Yes! The Bolivian flag features the Coat of Arms in the center and a soaring Andean Condor at the top of the coat of arms. At the center of the Coat of Arms is the Cerro Rico of Potosí and the Cerro Menor (mountains) with a sheaf of wheat, a palm tree and a llama. The flag has three equal horizontal stripes, with the top stripe red, the middle one yellow and the bottom stripe green. The red stands for the valor of the army, the yellow stands for the richness of mineral resources, and the green stands for the fertility of the land.
Is the Andean Condor Featured on the Money of Bolivia?
No, but some other Bolivian animals were featured in the 2018-2019 banknote series. The currency of Bolivia is the boliviano. The 2018-2019 banknotes featured landscapes, flowers and animals that were significant to Bolivians. Here are the animals that were on the back of those banknotes:
- 10 bolivianos: giant hummingbird (“giant” when it comes to hummingbirds, but these birds still only weigh 18-24 g)
- 20 bolivianos: black caiman (caiman are the largest in the Alligatoridae family, with some reaching nearly 20 feet long)
- 50 bolivianos: Andean flamingo (you can find Andean flamingos at the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve in southwest Bolivia)
- 100 bolivianos: hyacinth macaw (these macaws are bright blue with a yellow ring around their eye and yellow under their beaks)
- 200 bolivianos: Andean mountain cat (a sacred wild cat that lives high in the Andes Mountains)
Is the Andean Condor an Endangered Species?
Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) are listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They were last evaluated in August 2020. Their range is along the western coast of South America from Ecuador down to the tip of Chile and Argentina. It is estimated that there are around 6,700 left in the wild. One of the greatest threats to the Andean condor is poisoning. Some farmers and ranchers think that Andean condors kill their livestock, so they bait the condors with poisoned dead sheep. Andean condors are scavengers and are not a threat to livestock. They can also die from eating dead pumas or foxes that were poisoned.
Are there any Endangered Animals that live in Bolivia?
Yes. The Chinchilla has some of the softest furs of all mammals and is considered endangered in Bolivia. Poachers target them for their fur. Both the short-tailed chinchilla and the long-tailed are listed as endangered.
The giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is also listed as endangered, with an unknown remaining population. They might recover in Bolivia in the Madidi and Itenéz or Guaporé Rivers. Giant otters can be 5-6 feet long and weigh as much as 55-70 pounds.
What other Animals Live in Bolivia?
Other animals in Bolivia include alpacas, small llama-like animals, capybaras, large beaver-like rodents and viscacha that look like overstuffed bunnies.
The Amazon River dolphin is a freshwater dolphin with pinkish skin that is sometimes called the pink dolphin. These dolphins are also listed as endangered. Piranha also lives in the Amazon River. They have rows of sharp teeth but typically eat insects, crustaceans and other fish, in contrast to the feeding frenzy depicted in cartoons.
Jaguars, maned wolfs, and spectacled bears (Andean bear) can all be found in Bolivia, but jaguars are rarely seen in the wild.
At the salt lake of Laguna Colorada, you will find thousands of pink Andean flamingoes. Flamingoes would make for a worthy national bird which is what the Bahamas chose, but for the people of Bolivia, the strength and nobility of the Andean condor was a clear choice.
- Condor Wingspan: How Big are They
- Are there Sharks in the Amazon River
- The Flag of Bolivia: History, Meaning and Symbolism
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Cezary Wojtkowski/Shutterstock.com
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- A-Z Animals, Available here: https://a-z-animals.com/animals/location/south-america/bolivia/
- Red List, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22697641/181325230
- The Peregrine Fund, Available here: https://www.peregrinefund.org/explore-raptors-species/vultures/andean-condor
- Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/flag-of-Bolivia
- San Diego Zoo, Available here: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/andean-condor
- Red List, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/18711/222719180